Before U.S. Open Win, Del Potro Was an Ad Star in Argentina

These Spots for Nike and PepsiCo Might Hint at What's Ahead

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BUENOS AIRES ( -- Now that he was crowned champion in the U.S. Open, it won't be long until Argentine Juan Martín Del Potro becomes one of his country's top ad stars. Whatever he becomes in the international marketing scene thanks to his upset of Roger Federer, he's already had some local ad successes with Nike and Pepsi.

At the end of 2008, before facing Feliciano López in the Davis Cup final, Mr. Del Potro appeared in a decidedly low-budget Nike spot thanking the Argentine public: "It's great that your country admires you, but it's much greater that the world admires your country." Those times weren't so cheerful for Mr. Del Potro, who lost against the Spaniard.

Last march Mr. Del Potro's face was shown once again on TV, this time for a Pepsi and Lay's campaign, made by PromoRed Argentina and Muu Cine. Here, he "exchanged" his body with Argentine soccer player Diego Buonanotte.

It was funny for Argentines to see Mr. Buonanotte, who is short and has a high-pitched voice, talking from Mr. Del Potro's body and vice versa. And it fit the concept of "Crossed," the name for this campaign, which communicated that Pepsi and Lay's both were giving away beverages and snacks for free. The campaign was also a great example of how both marketers' investment can be exploited through brand crossing, with each generating a rise in sales volume and creating affinity among PepsiCo's two business units: drinks and snacks.

This campaign was part of a contract that Gatorade -- also a PepsiCo brand -- signed with Mr. Del Potro at the end of 2008 for a period of two years, with the terms of the contract to be renegotiated at the end of each year. When they signed the contract he was the No. 8-ranked player in the world -- but he was No. 25 when the Pepsi-Lay's spot was shot -- more evidence that it's always a wild bet for brands to invest on a sportsman. Usually, brands look for a "sportsman model," which includes personality, friendliness and education, rather than looking at his performance. Performance can never be predicted.

Marcos Diehl, a sports marketing consultant in the Gatorade and Del Potro deal, said the model of this young tennis player can only be compared to another Argentine sportsman: NBA player Manu Ginóbili. "Del Potro is the next Manu Ginóbili", he said to Ad Age. He also pointed out that advertisers look for sportsmen that are at the beginnings of their careers.

Of course Mr. Del Potro's cachet must have grown significantly with this new historical triumph for the tennis player, who is actually the second Argentine man who has won this title. The other was legendary Guillermo Vilas in 1977. (Actually, there's a third Argentine winner of the U.S. Open in 1990, but in the women's tournament: Gabriela Sabatini.)

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